Why not a civilian head of ISI?

By: Kamran Shafi

In view of the fact that the cardinal sin of the federal government to try and put the ISI under civilian control is cited as a reason behind all the obituaries presently being written about the imminent fall of a) just the president; b) all the major politicians; and c) the whole shoot, I’ve been trolling through the Internet to see how just many of the world’s top intelligence services are headed by serving military (in Pakistan’s case, read ‘army’) officers.

And how many are appointed by the army chief. Consider what I’ve come up with.

Except for two retired army officers in the early days, one a lieutenant colonel the other a major general, all the DGs of MI5, the “United Kingdom’s internal counter-intelligence and security agency were civil servants. The director-general reports to the home secretary, although the Security Service is not formally part of the home office”, and through him to the prime minister.“The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), colloquially known as MI6 is the United Kingdom’s external intelligence agency. Under the direction of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), it works alongside the Security Service (MI5), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the defence intelligence staff (DIS).” Except for one naval captain, an admiral, a lieutenant colonel and a major general in the very early days, all of them retired, every single chief of this agency has been a ‘bloody civilian’, some from within its own ranks, others from the civil service. The present director is Britain’s former ambassador to the United Nations. The director reports to the chief cabinet secretary and through him to the prime minister.

Directors of Mossad, the dreaded Israeli intelligence agency which seems to be running rings (if reports in our conservative press and on our fire-breathing TV channels are to be believed) around our very own Mother of All Agencies, has been headed mostly by retired military officials (remember please that military service is compulsory in Israel) but also by ‘bloody civilians’. Mossad’s director is appointed by the prime minister and reports directly to him.

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency reports to the director of national intelligence (DNI), who in turn reports to the White House. The director is appointed by the president after recommendation from the DNI, and must be confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate. While there is no statutory provision which specifically excludes active military personnel from being nominated for the position, most directors have been civilians.

Barring Gen Reinhard Gehlen who set up the German intelligence agency Abteilung Fremde Heere Ost to principally keep an eye on the Russian easternfront during the Second World War, the present federal intelligence service, Bundesnachrichtendienst(BND), has always been headed by civilian public officials, notably by civil servant, lawyer and politician of the liberal Free Democratic Party, Klaus Kinkel who rose to be Germany’s federal minister of justice (1991–1992), foreign minister (1992–1998) and vice chancellor of Germany (1993–1998).

Next door in India all directors of RAW have been civilians, either civil servants or policemen or officials from within its own ranks. While the director RAW, also known as ‘Secretary (R)’, is under the direct command of the prime minister, he reports on an administrative basis to the cabinet secretary. However, on a daily basis ‘Secretary (R)’ reports to the national security adviser to the prime minister.

RAW too, if the press and TV channels are to be taken seriously, is running rings around us in close collaboration with Mossad.

So then, why is it that only in our country, our intelligence service is the fief of the army, and only of the army? Surely there are competent people other than generals who could well head the organisation and be a credit to it? I mean if all of the world’s leading agencies can be headed by civilians why not our ISI?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, what is known as the ‘Ghairat Lobby’ has taken yet another drubbing with the most recent report of the LA Times to the effect that ever since 9/11 fully one-third of the CIA’s budget has been diverted to the ISI. It also reminds us brutally what the Commando has already told us in his ‘book’ (stand up, Humayun Gohar): that the ISI sold people, some surely terrorists some very surely innocent, to the Americans for cash payments as low as $5000 a go, and as high as millions of dollars for those who had huge head moneys on offer for their capture/death.

It also tells us that the CIA money was in addition to the $15bn that poured into the country during the Commando’s dictatorship. In the words of the LA Times the ISI, “had also collected tens of millions of dollars through a classified CIA programme that pays for the capture or killing of wanted militants, a clandestine counterpart to the rewards publicly offered by the State Department”. Will the Ghairat Lobby please sit up and take note, and understand that such reports make its ghairatmand stand on the Kerry-Lugar Law all the more ludicrous and hypocritical.

Let me here once more caution the leaders of the major political parties, the PML-N and the PPP: please close ranks and collectively beat back the ongoing assault on democracy by the establishment. Our country simply cannot take another extra-legal intervention (I did not say martial law) to remove any one individual, or two, from the scene. To President Zardari let me say, yet again: do not prevaricate, act now on the Charter of Democracy; break away from the too-clever-by-half -self-servers that you have surrounded yourself with.

To Mr Nawaz Sharif, this: Asif Zardari is not the only target of the establishment, he is only the first. You are next. Consider: if there is an anti-AZ story on one page, there is an anti-NS story on another page of the same newspaper on the same day. The Internet is full of planted stories on both the large political parties; stories that desperately try to turn lay people away from electoral politics. Be prepared for more dirt.

United you politicians will stand, divided you will fall.

P.S. The Balochistan High Court has ordered Musharraf to appear before it in the case of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s murder. How come there is no further reporting on this earth-shaking event, weeks down the line, as if it never happened?

6 responses to “Why not a civilian head of ISI?

  1. This lengthy article is irrelevant to ISI because its primary aim is to provide strategic intelligence to the three military services. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto brought in ISI into political field by asking it to open secret files on political leaders, including his ministers. Its misuse was continued by Zia and thereafter. Ayub had used IB under AB Awan, to pressurize politicians and create Muslim League (Convention). IB is more relevant to the agencies mentioned in the article.

    – Comment emailed to AHR.

  2. When Kamran Shafi get to the office of the President or Prime Minister whichever
    is powerful? He can invite teams from all those Intelligence Agencies to Pakistan
    and reorganize the ISI.Until then ISI is safe with the only Institution that is
    not inept or corrupt. Though some individuals may have embarked on illegal ventures but they do not last long.Unfortunately VIPs fall prey to “Commissions”
    and”Power”? And if we allow them to appoint their protege to head the ISI then we might as well appoint a civilian as the Chief of Army Staff to prevent futue
    martial laws.

  3. What is more important than bringing changes to ISI is to bring a change in the
    officialdom and prevent the Institutions from bad governance and corruption.Once
    we have achieved these two objectives then we will have no trouble with ISI or IB

  4. He (the author) has given examples of other countries, without once mentioning or perhaps even knowing, the ultimate task of ISI. His example of Israel is a joke, saying every one there is in military service. That, military service is for 3 years only., and not all are at officer rank. They are not stupid that they would put a man in charge of Mossad with 3 years experience in military.

    Before commenting on the requirements of whether a civilian or army man should head the ISI, his job description is vital. What, is the task of the ISI chief? If a civilian is qualified to do it, by all means put a civilian there. But are civilians trained to do this task?

    The ultimate job of ISI, and its boss, is to formulate strategic hypotheses of enemy’s capabilities and intentions, on which the military strategy is based.

    It is an art and science of military methodolgy, which Army officers spend a life time learning. The process of learning starts from tactical levels, and with increase in ranks goes on through operational, strategic military and finally strategic levels.

    Military strategy means, development of military instrument over a period of time, and then application of that instrument, called operational strategy. The development and application, both are highly professional subjects demanding life time of study, training, on-job training and grooming.

    Garbage in, garbage out is well known to you. If the threat perception is incorrect, hypotheses will be incorrect, the armed forces’ development and maneuver plans will be incorrect, resulting in national defeat.

    And mind you, we are talking about tri-services, the armed forces, and not only army. The head of ISI has to have professional competence pertaining to assessing inputs from all three services agencies, foreign office, own defence attaches abroad, diplomats, press, state of domestic environment, ( socio-economic-politico ) indeed, know the national environment before he can formulate hypotheses. He then presents his hypothses to the PM, Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) and the Joint Staff HQ ( i.e Armed Forces ).

    His inputs indeed, become the basis of driving the policies and strategies of all other elements of national power.

    National security, is the prime focus, always, here and in any other country. If the country exists, only then all other national policies will remain meaningful, goes without saying, but I am saying it all the same.

    This , can then help evolve a cohesive national effort for meeting the threats to nation, both in short, and long term.

    If a civilian can do this, well, no one will grudge him.

    -Comment emailed to AHR.

  5. while theoretically i entirely agree with Kamran Shafi.However already the manipulated offensive against PPP and civilian leadership is ongoing.There are reports that there is talk of bringing back the jihadis in the boat.Such was the bias that General Kallue was bocked and sabotaged at every stage despite being ex army while heading ISI.A civilian would ruffle many feathers.

  6. The article is just bullshit on ISI and defence forces. “ISI” means Inter Services Intelligence Agency. Her task is to counter anti state active or cover Propaganda. Presently ISI do not deal with political matters. Such type of propaganda would be taken as venum injected in the masses by some anti state elements.

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